"The right thing to do": Paul Krugman praises Obama's immigration action

Economist and celebrated liberal columnist Krugman applauds the president's executive order

Published November 21, 2014 1:45PM (EST)

Paul Krugman                                                                                                                                                       (Reuters/Chip East)
Paul Krugman (Reuters/Chip East)

Count New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman among the fans of President Barack Obama's executive order sparing up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

The president's plan -- announced last night -- was long an item on the progressive wish list. In his column today, Krugman writes that far more important than the social and economic benefits of immigration is the "humanity" of the immigrants themselves -- hence his support for the president's action.

To be sure, immigration is not an open-and-shut case, Krugman acknowledges. Noting that economic research has shown that immigration has a depressing effect (albeit a small one) on wages, Krugman writes that immigration presents policymakers with "difficult" questions.

"I like to say that if you don’t feel conflicted about these issues, there’s something wrong with you," Krugman says. "But one thing you shouldn’t feel conflicted about is the proposition that we should offer decent treatment to children who are already here — and are already Americans in every sense that matters. And that’s what Mr. Obama’s initiative is about," he adds.

What is to be done about the children and families affected by the president's order? Krugman rejects as "cruel" an "iron fist" approach that deports young people and their parents. Not only are such measures heartless, but "Congress doesn’t want to spend the money that [a crackdown] would require," he argues.

And so, Krugman concludes, we're left with a fundamental question: Do we continue to treat these unauthorized immigrants as if they simply aren't here or don't deserve to belong to the body politics, or do we bring them out of the shadows into the fullness of American life?

More from Krugman's column:

The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing. Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors. Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society. Failure to act is just self-destructive.

But speaking for myself, I don’t care that much about the money, or even the social aspects. What really matters, or should matter, is the humanity. My parents were able to have the lives they did because America, despite all the prejudices of the time, was willing to treat them as people. Offering the same kind of treatment to today’s immigrant children is the practical course of action, but it’s also, crucially, the right thing to do. So let’s applaud the president for doing it.

By Luke Brinker

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